Damon Lindelof’s TV adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen for HBO is still in the early stages of pre-production, but we are already getting glimpses into how Lindelof plans to tell the iconic story his time around.
Recently at Vulture Vest, Lindelof talked about why he thinks the Watchmen story could be so resonant today in our current social and cultural climate: because it was ‘dangerous.’ “And you can’t be dangerous for dangerous’s sake,” the director explained, “but the reason that I’m doing this is these are dangerous times, and we need dangerous shows.” Lindelof evidently wants to recreate the challenging and transgressive attitude with which the original readers of Watchmen were ensnared in the 1980s. We can only speculate, but to recreate that effect, could this adaptation be set in a modern day familiar to its audience?
Lindelof continued the live discussion by clarifying how the Watchmen story more than any other can interrogate the idea of a superhero. He explains:
“What we think about superheroes is wrong. I love the Marvel movies and we saw Justice League this morning and I’m all for Wonder Woman and Batman and I grew up on these characters, but we should not trust people who put on masks and say that they are looking out for us. If you hide your face, you are up to no good.”
Indeed, the Watchmen graphic novel repeatedly criticises the naïve trust given to the ability of superheroes in the story, be it from the public or even those heroes’ own alter-egos. Lindelof might want to parallel that distrust with similarly unsettling authority figures in contemporary America.
Zack Snyder directed a film adaptation of the comic series, which was released in 2009 to a mixed critical reception. Lindelof has previously stated that:
“Snyder made the best possible movie adaptation considering the fact that he was really out to not revise things, the fans really wanted a literal adaptation.”
The fact that Lindelof praises Snyder in this regard, by how well Snyder transposed the graphic novel directly into a film, suggests that he might feel that he has the license now to adapt the material more liberally, and perhaps more appropriately for a contemporary audience.
That seems to be Lindelof’s overall attitude to his responsibility of adapting this property, and he does recognise it as a responsibility. Lindelof has spoken about how his father introduced him to superhero comics at a young age, and to Watchmen when he was only 13. He has also spoken about Alan Moore with great respect, describing him as “the greatest writer in the history of comics, maybe one of the greatest writers of all time.” Moore has often objected to or disregarded adaptations of his work, but Lindelof seeks to change that:
“He most certainly doesn’t want us to be doing this and we’re trying to find a way to do it that honours him … That comic was written in the mid-’80s. It is more timely now, in 2018, 2019, whenever the show airs, if it airs, that it needs to be told. For a superhero junkie, I’ve never done a superhero movie or a superhero TV show, and now is the time.”
Lindelof’s passion to do the comic justice is clear, and we can only hope that he can succeed in recreating the impact of the original text 30 years ago.
Damon Lindelof is a screenwriter and producer, and co-creator of such shows as Lost and The Leftovers.